SAN FRANCISCO: What can a company do when a competitor’s high-profile TV commercials shred the image of its flagship product? And what can the competitor do when the company attempts to strip its multimillion-dollar spots off the airways? Wage a PR war, of course.
SAN FRANCISCO: What can a company do when a competitor’s
high-profile TV commercials shred the image of its flagship product? And
what can the competitor do when the company attempts to strip its
multimillion-dollar spots off the airways? Wage a PR war, of course.
That’s exactly what happened in the San Francisco Bay Area earlier this
month, as Excite@Home and regional telecom company Pacific Bell duked it
out over a newly launched ad campaign for PacBell’s DSL service.
The humorous PacBell TV spots, produced by ad agency Goodby Silverstein
(known for its ’Got Milk?’ campaign), depict neighbors discouraging
newcomers from moving in because of fears that more people will mean
slower cable-modem Internet access.
Calling the ads deceptive and misleading, Excite@Home issued a ’cease
and desist’ letter to Pacific Bell - and hit the media trail to get the
word out about their feelings.
Excite@Home senior PR manager Alison Bowman insisted the company is not
simply reacting to what it perceives to be PacBell’s mudslinging.
’This is not a PR campaign attacking Pacific Bell’s business,’ she
’The focus is on educating consumers about our business, highlighting
the value of our service and the differentiators between the various
Pacific Bell media relations director John Britton responded by calling
Excite@ Home’s actions and comments to the press ’a bonanza for us.
Their stirring up of the controversy helps drive attention to us and has
helped us get our message out.’
Despite the fact that the company recently added a legal disclaimer on
the ads, Britton said PacBell stands behind the commercials: ’They are
accurate and truthful spots. The fact that the Internet itself is a
clogged network is not news to anyone.’
For Excite@Home, the PacBell ad controversy is yet another in a series
of PR challenges that the company has faced in recent weeks. Earlier
this month, CEO and founder Tom Jermoluk announced that he was leaving
the company to join VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. On the
other hand, the company scored a PR windfall when a Bloomberg reporter’s
misinterpretation of a comment by Comcast president Brian Roberts about
buying into Excite@Home shot the company’s stock price up 56%.
Excite@Home does not currently employ a PR agency of record.